Different Sharks team set for underdog role vs. Blues

711772.jpg

Different Sharks team set for underdog role vs. Blues

The Sharks got the wrong first-round opponent. Such is the finding of my unofficial twitterstraw poll, conducted during the Sharks regular-season finale. Roughly 75 percent of respondents and yes,there were more than four believed San Josewas better off against Vancouver than St. Louis. Which is interesting, given that the Canuckssummarily bounced San Josefrom the playoffs last season. Thenagain, maybe thats the rationale it certainly was Jamie Bakers on SharksPregame Live. A little extra motivationnever hurts come playoff time.No matter, much to Bakes and my tweeps chagrin, itsSharks-Blues in round one. On thesurface, Armageddon-in-waiting Team Teal.St. Louiswon all four regular-season meetings, allowing a TOTAL of three goals in theprocess. Yikes.There is a school of thought that suggests past performanceis not necessarily an indicator of future results. Im sure I saw that in the fine print of afinancial management brochure. Or in thecast bios for Celebrity Apprentice.Regardless, that school of thought has pretty much failed when appliedto the Sharks. Two seasons ago, San Jose got blitzed by Chicago during the regular season, then sweptby the Blackhawks in the playoffs. Lastyear, Vancouverowned the Sharks during the regular-season, and you know what happened afterthat. So why should we expect thisgo-round to be any different?Many simply dont.They say Blues in five games.They say St. Louisis too fast, too deep, too stingy, too well-coached, too darn frustrating forthe Sharks to deal with. And they saythat because, well, thats exactly what they saw during the four meetings thisseason.I wish I could argue with that logic, but I cant. I saw the Chicago result coming. I saw the Vancouver result coming. And I have long feared that a St. Louis pairing wouldbe pretty much a disaster. Arguably theworst possible matchup in the entire Western Conference. But then theres this, the one glimmer of hope I can offerto fans (and to my admittedly skeptical self): the Sharks are a different team nowthan the one which last faced St. Louis on March 3rd. Thatteam was in the midst of a five-game losing streak. Thatteam, in fact, lost an incredible 11 out of 13, going 5-34 (14.7) onthe power play during that stretch. That team didnt scoreas many as four goals for 20 straight games.That team managed justone regulation road win in a full months time. Contrast that with the new and improved (really, was thereany other way to go?) version. Fourstraight wins and seven of nine to end the season including gutty,character-revealing road triumphs at Dallas and Los Angeles. Six for the last 20 (30) on the powerplay. Wins over Boston,Detroit, Nashville,Phoenix, and L.A. (twice) in the final three weeks. That said, the Sharks will have to play that well and thensome to win this series. Joe Pavelskiwill have to remain scorching hot. LoganCouture will have to get scorchinghot. Patrick Marleau will have to hitsomebody. And yes, score. (Did I mention San Jose is 18-3-3 this season when Marleaulights the lamp?) TheWinick-Wingels-Desjardins line will have to keep buzzing around in freneticfashion. Marc-Edouard Vlasic will haveto play like the all-star he resembled in the seasons first half. Brent Burns will have to become the force healmost is. Antti Niemi will have to keeppace with the Blues outstanding goalie duo.Put simply, every man will have to bring the energy, the desperation,and (perhaps most importantly against this particular opponent) theattention-to-detail that brought the Sharks back from late-season life supportand got them to within one victory of a division title.Embrace the underdog role, boys. Unfamiliar territory to be sure, but maybe itwill suit you. Jamie Baker thinksso. And I am sure at least 25 of mytweeps agree.

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”